Debate: Hollinger's Power Rankings

5-on-5 Roundtable: Five writers react to Hollinger's early take on all 30 teams

Updated: January 10, 2012, 6:08 PM ET
ESPN.com and the ESPN.com Network

Philadelphia 76ersJesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty ImagesPhilly is looking quite formidable two-plus weeks into the season. Should we take the Sixers seriously?

John Hollinger's Power Rankings debuted today with quite a surprise: The Sixers are No. 1! Can Philly keep it up all season? What will the Heat, Bulls and Thunder have to say about it? Our writers dissect some of the more interesting rankings.

1. What are the odds the 76ers can remain in the top five?

Philadelphia is currently ranked No. 1.


Henry Abbott, TrueHoop: 5/95. I admire the power of blowout wins, but the Sixers haven't played a lot of quality competition. More importantly, the teams on their heels have dealt with all kinds of injuries and oddities. I'd bet "the field" in almost any contest, especially when the other option is Spencer Hawes, MVP candidate.

Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: 20/80. Ask yourself: Is this sustainable? Maybe. Then look at their opponents' putrid 26.9 3-point percentage and ask yourself again: Is this sustainable? Probably not. Top 10 is more like it.

Zach Harper, Daily Dime Live: 75/25. The Sixers have a lot of depth right now and seem primed to be the Nuggets of the East. They're blowing out bad teams, playing tremendous on both sides of the floor and taking advantage of Spencer Hawes' magical and coincidental contract year run. Wouldn't be shocked if they had a big point differential all season long.

Beckley Mason, HoopSpeak: 40/60. The 76ers play fantastic defense and look like the clear-cut third-best team in the East. But I'm not convinced they will outrank Portland, Denver (their Western doppelganger) or Oklahoma City, not to mention Boston and the L.A. teams, at the end of the season.

Danny Nowell, Magic Basketball: 20/80. I am a recent addition to Philly's bandwagon -- the Sixers play excellent two-way team ball -- but I'd be surprised to see them stay in front of all the teams with more talent. They have the ingredients to be uniquely efficient but are a stud or two from being able to sustain this torrid play against top competition.


2. What are the odds the Heat or Bulls will finish No. 1?

Miami and Chicago are currently ranked No. 2 and No. 3, respectively.


Abbott: 60/40. Those are the two most fearsome teams to me. But even a short season is long, and other real-deal rivals will emerge.

Haberstroh: 80/20. These two teams are stacked in the regular season because they can own both ends of the floor on any given night -- the Heat more so than the Bulls. With that said, I see the Thunder with an outside chance at the throne. And don't count out the Nuggets or Blazers. It's going to be a season full of crazy.

Harper: 90/10. It's possible the Thunder could come swooping in or the Nuggets may even end up with just enough to edge out Miami or Chicago. But the Heat and Bulls just seem too perfect for Hollinger's rankings. They'll have the most wins and huge point differentials, and they're always going to be on or coming off winning streaks. If only John would factor in LeBron not taking 3s, it would be a lock.

Mason: 100/0. If one of these two defensive juggernauts -- both teams also have improved on offense since last season -- doesn't finish with the top spot, I'll personally shave John Hollinger's noggin.

Nowell: 60/40. I have more confidence in these teams -- particularly the Heat -- than this answer indicates, but we know that the field, as a betting proposition, will usually beat out all but the most transcendent teams. Of course, my feelings change if Wade's foot doesn't heal up nicely before the season turns into a real grind.


3. What are the odds the Blazers or Nuggets finish best in the West?

Portland and Denver are currently ranked best and second-best in the West, respectively.


Abbott: 40/60. Both teams have had super high quality wins and I believe both are in the mix. But likely to finish tops in the West versus the Thunder, Lakers, Spurs, Clippers, Mavericks, Grizzlies, etc.? The whole thing has a "pinch me" feeling -- which I say with delight as a Blazers fan, even as I expect the most likely thing is another team takes this particular cake.

Haberstroh: 30/70. Thirty percent might seem like a lot, but if you phrase it the other way around -- that the Oklahoma City Thunder have a 70 percent chance of winning the West -- it seems pretty reasonable. The only thing taking down the Thunder is an injury to Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook or James Harden. And the basketball gods better not let that happen.

Harper: 40/60. The Thunder would be my favorites to end up as the best in the West, mainly because I think they'll start blowing teams out of the water pretty soon. They've had a lot of close games early on with Westbrook and others struggling. Once this team starts clicking, it should pull ahead. Some Northwest Division team is definitely ending up as the best.

Mason: 60/40. I still think the Thunder will be there at the end, but these two really represent "the field" in the Thunder versus the field proposition. It's more likely that one of these two teams will finish at the top, especially given that Hollinger's data won't be swayed by the allure of Kevin Durant's individual brilliance.

Nowell: 50/50. Fair or not, it isn't likely that these teams will be postseason favorites, but they both seem ideally coached and constructed for this type of season. With a fast pace matched by defensive tenacity, one of these two teams could very well finish with a better profile than a more talented team like the Thunder.


4. What are the odds the Celtics and Knicks finish in the top 10?

Boston and New York are currently ranked No. 21 and No. 24, respectively.


Abbott: 0/100. I've seen these Knicks play. They kill this deal by themselves. Throw in garden variety old, shallow Celtics doubt, and I like my chances even better.

Haberstroh: 20/80. I just don't trust the health of the Celtics -- and Baron Davis' health, for that matter. I think the Knicks could see a 2010-11 Heat-like turnaround a month or so into the season, but they need a defensive guru to pull it off. I seriously question whether Mike Woodson is that guy.

Harper: 1/99. I'll give it a slight chance, but these two teams are going to win ugly. There aren't going to be a lot of sexy stats throughout the compressed season to help them shoot up Hollinger's rankings. For both of them to make it, one of them has to trade for Dwight Howard and then share custody with the other.

Mason: 10/90. Only because Hollinger's system rewards recent hot streaks, so if both of these teams somehow rip off an 8-2 stretch to finish the season, they could be in the top 10. Boston is the more likely candidate to earn a spot there via its season-long performance.

Nowell: 8/92. I know, I know. You can't count out veterans, New York is still getting used to new players, etc., etc. However, I simply can't imagine -- what with the Knicks being a bunch of square pegs for D'Antoni's round holes and the Celtics finally looking like regular, aging mortals -- that both of these teams will be elite in efficiency by season's end.


5. Which team's ranking is the biggest surprise to you?


Abbott: Could there be any correct answer other than the Sixers, many people's pick to win this year's lottery, all alone at the top? Also, Portland at No. 4 seems high to me. This rates their schedule as the third-toughest in the league, but they start the really dense games today, and I'm bracing for more games like their blowout loss to the Suns, which is what happened the last time they played a back-to-back.

Haberstroh: Washington Wizards at 30. I was thinking I might see the Austin Toros there instead.

Harper: Rockets. I can't believe they're so high in the rankings. They are an atrocious defensive team and look lost most nights. I was shocked their numbers were good enough to crack the top 25, let alone grab the 18th spot. The power of Kyle Lowry compels you!

Mason: How in the PER is Phoenix ranked 11? This is a poorly constructed team whose best player went to grade school with Methuselah. Yet somehow Nash carries on, and again carries Phoenix into the lower reaches of respectability despite his front office's best efforts.

Nowell: The struggles in San Antonio are real, and widely publicized. It's almost a sure bet that the days of Duncan the deity are behind us, and missing Manu is going to be a huge blow to the Spurs. Still, I'm surprised to see how effective they've been so far; this team hasn't just been squeaking by, it's played very well.